The company that maintains the Longboat Pass Bridge says the town’s contractor damaged the structure during an ongoing project to replace one of two drinking water pipes for the Manatee County side of the Key.
And it’s put the town on notice that it intends to seek damages against the town for repairs, which are expected to exceed $750,000.
Town Attorney Maggie Mooneyâ€Portale told the Longboat Key Town Commission at its Dec. 1 regular meeting that she received the letter earlier in the day and is working to protect the town’s interests.
“We’re gathering a team of engineers, and we anticipate the need for special litigation,” Portale said.
Infrastructure Corp. of America (ICA), which contracts with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to maintain the bridge and also employs its bridge tenders, sent the town a letter Nov. 25 outlining the damages it alleges contractor TB Landmark Construction Inc. caused: “While drilling and performing the directional bore, TB Landmark pressurized the subsurface soils and destabilized them in surrounding areas. As a result on Oct. 24, 2014, the Bridge experienced significant settlement, which caused substantial damage to the Bridge,” the letter states.
Around noon Oct. 24, the bridge tender noticed the bridge was sticking. ICA crews determined there was a 2.9â€inch gap between the bascule portion of the bridge and the roadway. A normal gap would be 1.5 inches, according to an Oct. 27 FDOT news release.
“ICA must pay to repair the Bridge, including stabilizing it to prevent further settlement related to your boring activity,” the letter states.
Commissioner Phill Younger worried the town could wind up paying both for the repairs plus additional litigation by contesting the damages.
“Sometimes it’s not worth the cost of suing,” Younger said.
Portale told commissioners they would discuss litigation strategy during a shade meeting — i.e. a meeting that is publicly noticed but is closed to the public during which officials discuss strategy with legal counsel.
“There are multiple responsible parties here,” Portale said. “We have insurance that we’re certainly going to seek out. We will come to you in a format in which we can discuss it frankly amongst ourselves.”